Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category


Merry Christmas from Dawn of the Lead

December 25, 2012

Christmas card 2012

People tend to dress up their kids in Christmas outfits, take photos of them and them make Christmas cards out of them. I figured I’d do the same. Here’s the USCM (Ultimate Santa Claus Marines) deploying for yet another daring winter mission. You can click on the card to view it in its full glory.

To all of my readers, have a merry and peaceful Christmas.


On winning – Warpg’s revisited

December 9, 2012

It has been over three years since I wrote my initial Warpg’s post. I’ve linked back to it several times, re-read it and still agree with what I wrote back then. I suggest you read that one first if you haven’t already, this one will make much more sense.

I was more than delighted when blog reader Andrew May commented a few weeks back:

 I keep coming back to this post to get ideas flowing, great inspiration here. Any chance of part 2? I particularly like the prospect of unwinnable scenarios!

Since I’m probably not the only blogger in the world who’s a sucker for compliments, I promised to return to the subject – hence this post. In this one I’ll touch upon the subjects that I mentioned at the end of the first post, namely narrated/GM-led games, cooperative gaming and unwinnable scenarios. These three tie together nicely to boot.

Narrated and GM-led games are definitely a step in a role-playing direction. Actually, to the point that the line between a wargame and a role-playing one is effectively blurred. The idea is definitely not a new one. Role-playing games sprang in the seventies from strategy games onto which different elements were bolted, so you could say we’re pretty much at the core here. In my view, they allow for a much wider scope for a game than just going along using different mechanics. The addition of a GM (Game Master) makes the game/story a lot more dynamic. All of a sudden the game can react to a given situation in literally countless ways. In a sense, it’s taking a step from “game” to “play” (but I won’t go there, there’s a massive academic swamp of term definitions that way). The rules become more malleable too, as the game takes a more story-like approach to the events. A good example of this is our previous game of Utopia, where the players were tackling Predators. We had a soundtrack featuring jungle sounds playing in the background, and as there was rain included, I mentioned to the players that it was now raining on the jungle battlefield as well. Later on we had this exchange:

Me: The Predator re-activates his cloaking device.

Player #1: Doesn’t he need to roll a die?

Me: No, it’s automatic, just takes an action.

Player #1: But you said earlier it was raining. We all know how the cloaking device responds to water.

Players #2 & 3: Hey, that’s true. You need to roll.

Me: Ok, sounds fair. On a roll of 1 the device won’t work.

<die roll of 1>

Me: The Predator, in fact, doesn’t activate his cloaking device. Apparently the combination of rain and the gunshot he just received has temporarily disabled the device.

…and all of a sudden we had a far more interesting situation. This might of course simply sound like players trying to exploit the rules, but in fact there was no rule to exploit here. I could’ve simply said that the rules don’t cover this and activated the device. Why was I willing to give the players an extra chance? That’s the beauty of GM-led games: a GM isn’t usually personally too invested. In other words, the GM controls the world and various characters, but unlike the player characters, the GM-led non-player characters aren’t an extension of the GM. As such, the GM can take a far more neutral approach to things, as it’s not a direct, fair competition between the GM and the players. If I was just another player playing the Predators, I probably wouldn’t have agreed, since that would’ve hampered my chances of winning. The GM doesn’t need to win. In fact, since he’s pretty much omnipotent, there’s no point for him in playing to win. I mean, if you can simply tell the players to roll three sixes in a row or all of their characters will die, then why stress about winning? Once winning is out of the window, the GM can concentrate on creating a fun and interesting game.

Cooperative games are tied to the same theme of winning. In competitive games the sucky (in my opinion) part is that in order for someone to win, another must lose. Usually losing isn’t much fun. Sure, you can do it in style and all, but you’ll often be left with a feeling of disappointment, frustration and such. While a staple in RPGs, this has been discovered more and more in other games lately. Board games, computer games, miniature games…cooperation is fun. If you lose, then everyone loses and you can share the disappointment. Then again, if you win, everyone’s a winner. On your side at least. Combine this with the GM approach above, and you have a very nice combination. If you lose, there’s no-one to gloat since the GM isn’t playing to win. If you win, there’s no-one to mope since the GM isn’t playing to win. A GM can also try to minimize the disappointment of the losing players: maybe they fail their mission, but not everyone dies. A loss can also be turned into an interesting story, and that brings us to…

Unwinnable scenarios. At first this sounds like a major letdown. Seriously, a scenario you can’t win? Where’s the fun? Let’s start again by ditching the need for winning. Suddenly also losing is deprived of most of its meaning – it’s a given, so why stress about it? While you’re going to lose eventually, there are plenty of small victories and glorious moments to be had. I suggest watching any movie about the Alamo for a good example of what I mean. You know what will happen – the defenders will lose and die. Doesn’t mean it’s a boring story. Since we already know what will happen, we can focus on the interesting path to the conclusion, instead of the conclusion itself. Take a scifi or fantasy classic – say Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings. You know the good guys will win and the bad guys will lose. Doesn’t mean there’s not a story in there, does it?

If I think of interesting examples of unwinnable scenarios, these might include scenarios that are not directly winnable but might affect the big picture, for example in a campaign game. “You must hold this ford for as long as possible against an overwhelming enemy” doesn’t offer much hope of winning, but will probably be an interesting game. “Try to get as far as possible into enemy territory.” “This is the last game of the campaign, make a glorious last stand!” and so on. Of course, in a GM-led scenario you don’t even have to let the players know that the scenario is unwinnable, although it just might be fair…

Three years ago, I wrote:

The one thing you have to bear in mind is that in the end it depends a lot on whether players are willing to sacrifice victory in favour of a more interesting game. I’ve found that the more players like to do this, the better the games get. Correspondingly the more people tend to focus on winning, the drearier the games get.

Having thought about it for a good while, I’d like to replace it with the following:

There are plenty of ways to define winning in a game, and the traditional victory point counting way is but one definition. Striving to win and striving to make an interesting, narrative-driven game don’t necessarily preclude each other. It depends a lot on game and scenario design as well as the players and the possible GM. A good game enables you to do your best to win without sacrificing interesting game content. At the same time a good game provides you with interesting content without requiring you to forget about winning.

I hope there was something interesting in this to all of you! For a lot of RPG veterans this is old hat, but I’ve been surprised by the fact that many wargamers see this as something groundbreaking. I apologize for the rambling nature of the post, and as a disclaimer I’ll say that not all of those thoughts are as fully developed as I’d like them to be. I’m definitely open to comments, critique and your ideas regarding the subject!






Prometheus and the Alien canon

July 12, 2012


Warning, spoilers here if you haven’t seen Prometheus!

tldr: Is Prometheus part of the Alien canon? Not really, although it might be an Alien prequel.

I finally went to see Prometheus. Surprisingly late for a franchise fanboy, but nevertheless. This won’t be a review, as there are plenty of those around. This won’t even be a rumination on Prometheus‘ themes, as there are plenty of those around too. This will simply be an account of my thoughts on how Prometheus relates to the Alien canon.

I you’re one of those people who can’t really be bothered to read through a whole bunch of text for a simple conclusion, but the tldr (too long, didn’t read) is too short for you, I’ll just quote a piece of Wikipedia for you.

Lindelof suggested that the other parts of the script were strong enough to survive without the Alien hallmarks, such as the Alien creature which he believed had been “diluted” by the exposure it had received since, and the burden of “all the tropes of that franchise with Facehuggers and Chestbursters”. He offered that the film could instead run parallel to those films, such that a sequel would be Prometheus 2 and not Alien[…]

That’s basically it.

While I enjoyed Prometheus despite its many shortcomings, I don’t really see it connecting with the canon established in AlienAliensAlien³ and even the much maligned Alien: Resurrection. For me, it’s somewhat similar to the AvP films in that regard, although obviously superior (and remarkably similar to the first one).

Why? Simply put, Prometheus doesn’t feel like it. The whole concept of giant, god-like creatures creating human life in their own image…it’s a bit too space opera, a bit too…just a “no”. For me, the concept of Alien lies in the name. It’s literally something alien, very much different from us. While interesting similarities can be seen (the mother theme being the most prominent), at the end of the day it is not us. The Space Jockey is also something different – a massive humanoid with an elephant-like head – of which nothing is revealed. It hints at something far beyond our knowledge. It’s strange, alien.

Prometheus bypasses this theme, actually reversing it. In a very literal sense, the Space Jockey is us. By extension, the proto-Aliens, created by the Engineers, are created by us. The Aliens are no longer alien, simply our own creation. This pretty much flattens the Alien canon. While it doesn’t of course destroy it logically, it does so thematically. The whole Alien saga becomes something not about the Alien, but humans. Even the Space Jockey is revealed to be basically a giant human in a suit. AvP made the same basic mistake in a very similar way, having the Predators worshipped as gods and so on.

The internet is full of Alien fans doing their best to tie Prometheus smoothly into the Alien saga. While this can obviously be done (“Oh but it was probably a different ship and maybe there are two different groups of Engineers and the proto-Alien was simply a different version!”) I find it easiest to simply accept that it isn’t necessary. Prometheus simply doesn’t fit the established Alien canon, no more than the graphic novels and the like.

What about the obvious similarities then? As the creators themselves said, Prometheus is set in the same world as Alien. It provides a lot of fan service, enough references to make a fanboy froth at the mouth and things like that. It’s definitely something of an Alien movie. Ridley Scott has said that Prometheus needs at least two sequels to reach Alien. This sounds reasonable. It would also make for a new canon: Prometheus, Prometheus 2/3, Alien. With the sequels not existing, it’s very difficult to say whether it would work. The leap from Prometheus to Aliens is simply too big, that’s for sure. As it is, Prometheus is a fairly interesting what if -scenario set in the Alien universe.

Parallels can be found, one being the new Star Wars trilogy. The original trilogy was about Luke Skywalker, with Darth Vader being an interesting antagonist, dramatically revealed to be Luke’s father. Then along comes the new trilogy, and suddenly the whole Star Wars saga is actually the tale of Darth Vader – even if he only plays a fairly minor role (in terms of screen time) in the original films. Like it or not, if there’s a Prometheus trilogy and it’s linked with the Alien canon, then all of a sudden the whole series of seven movies becomes a story of giant god-like beings and humans as their creation. All because of a very minor character/plot element, the Space Jockey, being shown. It’s no longer the Alien saga.

I don’t know about you, but in my opinion Alien – the Eighth Passenger is a hell of a lot more interesting than Humans – the Seven Other Passengers.

That’s why, dear readers, Prometheus just might be an Alien prequel, but for me it’s not part of the Alien canon. For me the Alien saga will be about the Alien, and Space Jockeys will probably always remain a mystery. I’ll keep my Xenomorphs and Space Jesus separate, thank you very much.



May 29, 2012

Crowdsourcing is a process that involves outsourcing tasks to a distributed group of people. This process can occur both online and offline, and the difference between crowdsourcing and ordinary outsourcing is that a task or problem is outsourced to an undefined public rather than a specific body, such as paid employees.

As a blogger, I have approximately two things I need to do: come up with ideas and write the actual posts. Unless I’m feeling particularly blank, the former isn’t usually a problem, and the latter I prefer to do by myself. However, there are times – such as today – when I’m thinking of doing something a bit bigger, and would definitely like some help and feedback. Instead of calling it “politely requesting”, I’m going to get all marketing-trendy and call it “crowdsourcing”.

What do I need it for? I’ve been thinking a long time of doing a Gaming the movie Aliens review. I’ve already covered the main players, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines in their respective reviews. What about the supporting cast? Here’s what I’ve got on an idea level (and what I currently think is needed):

Ripley – There are four or five variants that I know: Leading Edge, Hasslefree, Woodbine, em4 and at a pinch Copplestone.

Bishop – Leading Edge and Woodbine.

Burke – Leading Edge and Woodbine.

Gorman – Leading Edge and Woodbine.

Newt  – Leading Edge, Woodbine and Hasslefree.

Ferro – Leading Edge and Woodbine.

Spunkmeyer – Leading Edge and Woodbine.

Colonists  – Various, including Heresy, Hasslefree and Woodbine.

Sentry guns  – Leading Edge, Antenociti, Woodbine, em4.

Power loader – Leading Edge, Prince August, possibly Reviresco.

APC – Leading Edge, upcoming Khurasan, Old Crow, Scotia Grendel…

Alien Queen – Leading Edge, Horrorclix, Konami, ERM.

And now I turn to you. What am I missing, either as categories or models? Feel free to flood me with ideas, I’d rather select from a bunch than run dry. Do note that I’m only talking about Aliens here, not the entire quadrilogy – so Jones the cat and the rest are out I’m afraid. I’m also trying not to get into the whole scenics/terrain thing to keep this somewhat in check.

Dear readers, gimme all your lovin’. It’s much appreciated!


DotL 100K

March 19, 2012

Almost exactly a year ago Dawn of the Lead hit 50 000 views. Now we’re at 100 000 – quite a year!

For your viewing pleasure, here are some statistics:

Top 5 referrers (not including search engines)

The Miniatures Page – 14 766

Frother Unite! UK  – 2553

Lead Adventure Forum – 2282

Vampifan’s World of the Undead – 1600

Facebook – 1155

Top 5 posts

Alien miniatures review – 6176

Predator miniatures review – 5294

Colonial Marine miniatures review – 4714

HorrorClix zombies review – 2520

Colonial Marine painting tutorial – 2398

The blog is also nearing its 3rd birthday (April 25th). In that spirit I re-read my first ever post and I’m happy to say that I’ve been sticking to my original vision pretty tight.

A special thank you must go out to two of my most ardent followers, Sho3box and Vampifan. Thanks guys, your comments and feedback have helped shape both this blog and my views on the hobby.

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has dropped by and even kept coming back. To put it in a manly and mature way, you people are




Sizing up

March 2, 2012

To my regular readers, apologies in advance. The post mentions a fair few points that I’ve made earlier, so there’ll probably be a feeling of repetition here.

Miniature size/scale is one of those things that tends to come up whenever different ranges are discussed. Some people will stalwartly refuse to combine different ranges in their games, if they’re not stylistically compatible. I used to be one of these people. However, as years have gone by I’ve started to alter my stance. See, the Colonial Marine review I did left me with a slew of miniatures from various manufacturers, in different sizes and styles. As I tend to favour a “waste not, want not” approach when it comes to miniatures (and stuff in general), I figured that the differences weren’t such a problem.

I think that one of the main reasons for the aversion to mixing sizes and styles comes from the way we view miniatures. Most comparisons are done at eye level, setting the miniatures next to each other and noting all the differences. However, when gaming we view the minis from what – half a metre, metre (that’s two to three feet for all you silly ancient measurement system types) up? In most games they aren’t next to each other either, and our eye will probably focus on the uniting factors, such as paint schemes and basing, instead of the differences.

Allow me to demonstrate. In the pictures below there’s a variety of scifi miniatures from six different manufacturers painted with a similar colour scheme. There are major differences in size and proportions, and viewed next to one another, the ranges certainly don’t look too compatible in terms of size and style, although the paint scheme and basing does help.

L to R: Woodbine, Denizen, Copplestone, 1st Corps, Hasslefree, em4, em4 plastic. Click for a larger version

Let’s have a look at the picture below. For some obscure reason my Marines have wandered onto a Blood Bowl pitch, where they are about to take on the Drakwald Ravens who are incidentally another group of miniatures of various styles and manufacturers. The photo is taken from a gamer’s eye view, e.g. me sitting down and viewing the game board from a usual gaming height. See my point? The same size and style differences are still present, but in my humble opinion they are far less prominent, even to the point of being negligible. The eye is drawn to the different bases (green vs. grey) and colour schemes (the Marines’ green and camo vs. the Ravens’ black and purple). What we have here is not a motley collection of miniatures of various sizes and styles, but rather two coherent factions.

Click for a larger version

Your mileage may vary, of course, but I believe that sticking too adamantly to a single manufacturer’s ranges will sometimes unnecessarily limit your options. Naturally if you’re painting miniatures only for display, it’s another story. If not, do something wild (well, ‘geek-wild’) and try mixing two or more ranges if you haven’t already.

Crazy, I know!


The best zombie movie scene there is

January 12, 2012

There are some mighty fine zombie movies out there. There are lots of great scenes in them, too. Funny scenes, scary scenes, touching scenes. However, there is one scene for me, that will always stand head and shoulders above the rest: the Day of the Dead opening one.

It’s a very, very simple scene: a helicopter with four survivors lands in a deserted city, looking for survivors. Two of them run outside while a third one operates the helicopter radio, calling for any possible survivors. Outside, a military man calls desperately into a bullhorn: “Hello! Hello! Is anyone there? Hello!” You can see from his face and hear from his voice that he’s near a breaking point.

We are shown shots of a deserted city. There’s an alligator at a bank’s doorway. Palm leaves, abandoned cars and newspapers (with the classic “The Dead Walk!” headline) litter the street. A wind whips dollar bills around.

Slowly the survivors’ calls are answered, as zombies start to shuffle from inside and between the buildings. A few at first, then more and more. The survivors flee to their helicopter as the street fills with the walking dead.

And that’s it. Simple, elegant, effective and amazingly bleak. This five minute clip manages to convey the horror of a zombie apocalypse better than many full movies on the subject. It’s not the zombies that are the horrific thing. Sure, they are bloodthirsty monsters, but that’s not it. The horror stems from the emptiness.

“Hello! Hello! Is anyone there? Hello!”

There isn’t. It’s a bright sunny day, it’s a decent sized city, they’re calling into a bullhorn in the middle of the main street, and yet there is no-one answering. The abandoned paper money lets the viewer know there hasn’t been anyone for some time. Never mind the buildings or the cars, the loose money is the best indicator. The palm leaves and the alligator suggest that nature is slowly taking the city over and it’s falling into ruin – an entire city. Its new occupants don’t care anymore. The sheer desperation of the survivor’s calls bleeds through heavily. He’s hoping for someone to answer, but there’s just a faint echo.

If ever there was a zombie movie scene to burn itself into your mind and epitomise the genre, it’s this one. Forget the eviscerations or the scares, this is truly terrifying. It sets the mood for the rest of the film. Day of the Dead is probably the most depressing zombie movie I know. While many zombie movies suggest that there are isolated pockets of survivors all over the world, weathering the crisis, Day does away with this idea. No such respite can be found.

When I was a kid, I used to be very anxious about going to bed at night. There was a feeling of loneliness as the world quieted down, as if there was no-one around. I got rid of that anxiety by reading a children’s book detailing what’s going on in the world while you sleep. I realised that I wasn’t alone: there were mailmen going around, plenty of people at the airport, cleaners, truck drivers, partygoers and parents kept up by babies. The opening scene from Day of the Dead triggers some of the remnants of this childhood anxiety. The survivors truly are alone in the world, there’s no safe idea of others to cling to.

This might explain my fascination with the zombie genre. For me it’s not really about the zombies, but about loneliness. Out of Romero’s original trilogy (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead), Day has often been seen as the weakest link. There is some reliance on gore effects and a couple of truly repulsive characters. There is the idea of an intelligent zombie, found near-heretical by some. These aspects should be overlooked, however. Day is a movie about loneliness, desperation and the last moments of the human race.

After we’re gone, the dead have their day.

This is a guest editorial that I wrote for the new service It’s a service providing legal, licensed streaming movie and TV content for free – including Day of the Dead. I definitely suggest you check out their site – see especially the section “Chaos”, as there are some nice movies on offer.


From Dawn of the Lead with love

January 2, 2012

I decided to start off this new year with something special. As every miniature gamer knows, we tend to accumulate far more miniatures than we can paint. I got a fair few freebies for my Colonial Marine review, and while most will end up in my own use, there are a few that are simply extra. In this case, the Fenryll Science Fiction Troopers.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

From my review:

French resin miniature manufacturer Fenryll has six more or less obviously not-CMs in their science fiction range. It has to be said right at the start that these miniatures are very big. While the Fenryll site lists them as 28mm, the models actually measure 33-35mm from top of base to top of head. The size is a real shame, since the miniatures are very nice. The sculptor Dominique Seys has done a nice job with the troopers’ faces and gear, and resin produces beutiful, crisp detail. There is one thing about the first pack that bugs me a lot, and it’s the way the troopers hold their pulse rifles. They’re all holding them one-handed (two of them are holding a grenade in the other hand), and the guns look entirely weightless. This gives the troopers of the first pack a very action figure-ish look, which I’m not partial to. The troopers in pack 2 hold their guns much more sensibly with two hands, and I prefer this pack to the first one. The models come with separate guns and backpacks, and they’re all on square integral resin bases, with some sculpted detail and texture. There were some casting flaws, with quite a lot of flash and mould lines/misalignment.

The size of the Fenryll troopers will probably put a lot of people off. As the comparison pictures below show, they’re very tall, standing head and shoulders above most other miniatures in this review. While this might make them unappealing to a fair few gamers, their large size does mean that they’re a perfect match size-wise for the Horrorclix Aliens or the Heresy Hurn, which tend to be pretty big compared to most 28mm miniatures. In terms of price the troopers are at the higher end in this review, with a pack of three models costing 10 EUR, which amounts to £8.40 at the time of writing, or £2.80 per miniature.

The latter part is why I’m giving them away. While wonderful minis, they’re simply a bit too large to fit in with my other models. They’re still very nice, and really should find a nice home.

How to get them? Simple, just drop me a comment on this post. Using magical powers (and a random number generator) I’ll pick the lucky winner and notify them. The winner will need to pay postage, which should at most amount to 2-3 EUR or something similar even for overseas delivery – the Finnish post office is quite cheap and very reliable. Payment via PayPal is preferred.

Good luck!


2011 – a quick retrospective

December 31, 2011

As the year is grinding towards its inevitable end, I must say I’m somewhat satisfied with this year hobby-wise. While I didn’t get a whole lot done, I managed to actually keep old projects alive and do some gaming for a change. Here’s a quick look at what I did. There were basically just two miniature projects that occupied me during the year.

Aliens/Predator/Colonial Marines

I really did most of the work on these during 2010. Still, in 2011 I kept the project alive, and painted most of what was still unpainted in my stock of Alien and Predator miniatures as well as a whole bunch of Colonial Marines. I also did a very thorough review of the latter, and it has actually become my third most popular post ever, with close to 4000 direct clicks and probably a whole lot more through the front page.

I also managed to use them in gaming as well. While Triton-4 is on an undefined hiatus at the moment, it was important for me personally to actually get some use out of all the stuff I’d painted and the scenery I’d made. While somewhat time consuming, the games were a lot of fun, and I’m sure(-ish) we haven’t seen the last of the campaign yet.

Blood Bowl

The second part of my miniature gaming year consisted of a Blood Bowl league. I managed to almost complete an orc team, and I’m currently hard at work on an undead one. As for the games…weeell, most were pretty solid whippings for yours truly, but that hasn’t deterred me in the least bit. 2012’s league is starting up, and there are a fair few skulls to crack. Some might even be in my opponents’ teams.


This was a good year for zombie media reviews. I reviewed four different zombie book titles as well as six different movies. I was more than happy to do my share of promoting indie and short films.

I managed to keep up my “Upcoming zombie goodness” series of posts, keeping people (myself included) up to date on what’s happening in the zombie pop culture world. You can definitely expect to see those in the future.

What’s next?

I’ve no idea. The Blood Bowl project will continue, as will the Alien vs. Predator one. I’m hoping to get more gaming done, as usual, as well as more stuff painted. I purchased hardly anything this year, and I’m in no hurry to bury myself in more unpainted miniatures. It’s been satisfying to paint and use minis that have been sitting in boxes and cupboard for years. That’s what they’re for, anyway.

I like how the blog has turned out, and have no intention of stopping writing it. I’ve garnered a pretty solid base of followers, and whether you’re one of them or just a random passer-by, I wish to offer my heartfelt thanks for making it worth my while.

Happy New Year 2012, everyone. Let’s hope we skip the apocalypse part.

Unless it's a zombie one. That might be awesome.



Merry Christmas

December 23, 2011

Have a wonderful time, everyone.

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